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An Omni-Channel Return Policy

The boom in internet shopping over the last decade has caused a massive overhaul in the retail industry, resulting in changes in how retailers handle their return policy.  For any retailer, optimizing their customer returns has become a critical component in remaining competitive against other retailers.    2016-05-25_1453

Return policies have always been important to consumers, but now even more so, with increased internet shopping.   Consumers expect returns to be effortless—flexible terms with a reasonable time frame, the ability to receive credit for the merchandise, and an immediate resolution.

A Simple Returns Policy

Retailers should aim to develop an omni-channel return policy, which attempts to manage their customers’ expectations with continuity and multiple return options to satisfy them.  The steps to make a return should be clearly stated in a return policy, and the policy should be easily accessible to the customer in the store, on the website, on sales receipts, and with each merchandise shipment.  This helps to create a positive buying experience for the customer.

Seamless Transactions

One of consumers’ primary concerns is a seamless return transaction.  So, whether they have purchased the merchandise online or not, they want to be able to return it in the store.  The return should be reconciled against the original transaction so the customer does not need a receipt.

Pre-printed Return Labels

Make it easy for the customer to return by mail by including pre-printed return labels.  This eliminates any uncertainty over where to send the return, which carrier to use, and having to stand on a long line at the shipping center.   Retailers benefit as well by being able to track the transaction data easily with the bar code and get the item back to inventory.

More complex returns such as purchases made while in another country, or returning a purchase made in store via mail also need to be considered.

Social Media

Social media is one of the first places unhappy customers will go to vent their frustrations, and unfortunately, word spreads quickly.  Monitor your outlets to mitigate any negative experiences with a quick response.

Striking a balance between customer satisfaction and your company’s operations is key when creating an omni-channel returns policy.  A positive returns experience for a customer can translate to a loyal customer and building a good reputation as a retailer.